For some people, meditation seems like a simple act of being present. For others, the difficulty lies in being able to find the space to sit in a calm and present state without allowing for restless thoughts or outside influence to take control. Turning off and tuning in is definitely more than sitting quietly. Like any practice, it takes time and effort to grow into a routine or a healthy habit. I’ve found that meditation and mindfulness have immensely helped me to regain balance and become grounded, especially during this overwhelming year.
You don’t need to have a deluxe meditation cushion set or a special room filled with incense to meditate. All it takes is a comfortable position and some patience to begin the journey towards finding inner peace. However if you are in the market for creating a comfortable and functional meditation space, I personally use the cloud bench set by Samadhi Cushions. You can also find helpful insights and practices for using their hand crafted meditation benches and cushions here.
Once you are ready and able to carve out the time to spend meditating, and you find yourself thinking “now what?” you are not alone! Here are four of my favorite apps that I use to help establish a daily ritual and guide my mind. All of these applications have free trials so you can find what will work best for your specific needs.
As soon as I started using Calm, I immediately shared the free trial link with my friends and family. Upon signing up there is a short survey for what you would like to achieve, such as reducing anxiety or getting better sleep. Then they dig deeper to better curate their offerings into a plan that fits with your intentions that takes into account your level of experience and what time of the day you would be meditating.
Once you’ve signed up there are hundreds of meditations to choose from that range from quick and easy meditations that are 10 minutes or less, to longer experiences that focus on different topics like the 30-minute anxiety release. Depending on how quickly or slowly you want to dive into your meditation adventure, there are other options to ease into it by listening to soothing soundscapes and different programs that span from 7 to 30 days to develop your skillset.
There are also sleep stories that are recorded by celebrities. Who doesn’t want Matthew McConaughey reading you a relaxing bedtime story?
Something that sets the Waking Up with Sam Harris app apart is the compassion for his users. There is a free trial, but their annual subscription fee could be too high for most. However, he makes it available to request a free account for those who cannot afford it, which I believe shows his commitment to sharing access over making money.
Sam Harris himself is an author and lecturer that speaks on topics such as neuroscience, meditation, moral philosophy, religion, rationality and so much more. His impressive credentials and more formulated approach to meditation are clear from the breakdown of his courses that are distinguished by practices, lessons, and understanding the theory behind his approach.
What I like the most about the Waking Up app is there are ways to save your favorites and download content. They are also constantly innovating the app to be more user friendly. They recently updated their app to show what you have already listened to, which helps to keep track of previously viewed content.
Headspace was one of the first mediation apps that I tried out. I liked how they had a “Move Mode” to use while working out by connecting the mind and body during exercises. There is a clear connection between the history of meditation and modern science that is the basis of their approach. They use research techniques and are in partnership with institutions and organizations such as Stanford, USC, and NYU.
Because they offer technical insights on mediation and mindfulness, they have an extensive list of information for those who are looking for answers to questions such as: what is meditation? What is a flow state? And, how long does it take to form a habit? You can find the full list here.
Much like Calm, Headspace also incorporates known celebrities. John Legend is their Chief Music Officer that helped to curate 12 focus music stations to choose from while at work or even for remaining present during a long car ride.
A category that sets Headspace apart is their section for kids. Parents who are navigating this unique time with their children can find useful mediations that target the under 5 age range for relaxation, settling down, paying attention and so much more. There have been many studies done on how mediation can be a beneficial tool for children and behavior. Here is an article by Parents.com that goes into this topic further.
Last but not least, Gaia is a massive resource for videos that goes beyond listening to audio meditations. They offer films, videos, and documentaries about healthy living, food, lessons from spiritual teachers, yoga instruction and of course, meditation. The options are endless with this app!
Gaia also has the availability to be streamed through your smart TV as well, so you can watch any of their original series episodes or films with ease. This is also very helpful when following along to their virtual yoga classes, which are distinguished by time, teacher, or featured practices. I appreciate their “Stay at Home” yoga section, which I like to use before ending with a meditation as I wind down the day.
Whether you’re open to a simple app that you can listen to through headphones before bed or hoping to find a more immersive experience with a long-term plan for building your practice, I believe these different apps have been very useful as I embarked on my meditation journey. Thank you for reading and I hope that this inspires you to find your zen and give mediation a try.
Have you ever used any of these mediation apps? Please leave any suggestions and comments about meditation or additional mindfulness practices. I'd love to hear about your experiences!
Thanks for reading,